Presidential hopefuls turn down cabinet jobs

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CAIRO: Prime Minister designate Kamal Al-Ganzoury said on Wednesday he was in talks to form a new government after five presidential candidates turned down invitations to join his cabinet.

Egypt’s army rulers picked Al-Ganzoury to replace Essam Sharaf, whose interim government quit last week during clashes between riot police and protesters demanding the military quit power that left 42 people dead and over 2,000 wounded.

It was not immediately clear why the five presidential hopefuls refused cabinet posts, but joining a government that could last months or even weeks may hurt their presidential campaigns by associating them with a leadership many oppose.

"I have spoken with five of the colleagues who are running for the presidency and tried to convince them to join the new cabinet but they declined, along with two other popular figures," Al-Ganzoury told reporters on Wednesday.

He refused to say who had been approached.

Al-Ganzoury, when he agreed to be premier, said publicly that taking an official position at this stage, given the challenges ahead, was a thankless one.

The generals, feted as heroes for pushing Mubarak from office at the height of the uprising, are under pressure to get the government back on its feet to tackle social unrest, and a worsening economic crisis.

Sharaf’s Finance Minister Hazem El-Beblawy said on Wednesday he had not yet been asked to stay in his post. El-Beblawy has been lobbying for foreign funding to plug a widening budget deficit.

Al-Ganzoury, who said on Monday he aimed to announce a new cabinet line-up by the end of the week, said he would start meeting potential ministers on Thursday. He still aimed to announce his team "by tomorrow or the day after tomorrow".

Many of the mostly young activists who led the latest protests are unhappy with the army’s choice of the 78-year-old Al-Ganzoury, who was a prime minister under Mubarak in the 1990s.

Other Egyptians hoping for an end to months of turmoil welcomed Al-Ganzoury, seeing him as untainted by corruption. The army expects his interim administration to last until the end of June when an elected president would be appointed.

One presidential candidate, former United Nations nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, said on Saturday he was prepared to drop his bid to be head of state if he were asked to lead a transition government.

ElBaradei enjoys support among many of the protesters camped out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand an end to military rule.

But a peaceful start to a parliamentary election this week has drawn some of the impetus from their campaign and the military has stuck by Al-Ganzoury.

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